Talking Out Loud: The Rise of VUI Design
It is said that every good conversation starts with good listening. This is true all across, whether it is people talking to each other, or their devices. In fact, with the great influx in voice assistants and conversational AI today, more and more people are turning to their smartphones, smart speakers and computers to give voice commands instead of textual inputs.
Voice user interface, or VUI has thus become more than a buzzword over the last couple of years. I recently had the opportunity of attending a Design4India summit last week, where VUI and conversational AI was one of the primary topics of discussion. When it comes to building seamless user interactions and interfaces, conversational AI can work wonders. And it’s not just me saying this. It’s a whole lot of consumers who are actively using voice assistants for day to day activities. So far, Alexa has been the most popular, and for good reason, because the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot hold a whopping 59% market share!
Amazon, for one, has understood what consumers value most: convenience and customization, and that’s exactly what they’ve played upon. In fact, there’s a separate marketplace for Alexa’s skills altogether, through which consumers can choose what they want to teach their assistants. Whether it’s looking for recipes, setting alarms or reading out stories, there are more than 80,000 skills available, and 50 new ones are added every day!
In fact, users can create their own skill sets for Alexa. This involves identifying the user persona, scripting out the use cases, defining a series of cards including utterance, responses and prompts, and testing this on Alexa before launching. A few additional factors like turn taking to stay in sync with each other, maintaining a flow in the conversation and speech efficiency also need to be taken care of. Focusing on the intuitive power of language is imperative. The user should ideally be able to articulate responses in one breath, while keeping the context of the conversation in mind, so that the conversation does not get stuck in the same loop again and again.
Designing a VUI successfully is much more than diagrams and tools, because a core understanding of the user needs to be developed, with empathy as the foundation. Right now, VUI finds its maximum usage within consumer sets, but in fact, it has the potential to disrupt enterprises and SMEs with multi billion dollar opportunities. Think of the bigger picture, and you’ll see how much there is to explore. Starting with the simple bits, it’s a piece of cake for VUI to organize conference calls and coordinate meetings between groups, all with a single command.
But the key to achieving business success with VUI lies in how you utilize it, and not overdoing it simply because it’s easy to execute. Business leaders need to figure out the areas in which it can add the most value, and then hone that skill, rather than taking a jack-of-all-trades route. One section that can benefit immensely with VUI, is training and upskilling- this is also where employees can add on to the existing Alexa skills and experiment with what works best for them. In a way, VUI is the first step towards giving enterprises and brands their own voice. Keep all this in mind, soon enough, instead of marketers telling brand stories, brands will probably be telling it themselves, and I for one, can’t wait to see that happen!
-Anupam Kulkarni is the Co-Founder and CEO of iauro Systems, Pune